Closing the Book: Anathem

Book Cover: Neal Stephenson's AnathemWith the mixed feelings of sadness and accomplishment that typically comes with finishing an engrossing (and challenging) novel, I closed the back cover this weekend on Neal Stephenson’s Anathem. I’m astonished still by how well Stephenson was able to weave extended discussions of philosophy, theology and even geometry into a narrative that gains an unstoppable head of steam — all within a world textured with the rhythms of thousands of years civilization and inhabited by real people I came to care about.

Highly recommended.

William Gibson

She looks after him, feeling a wave of longing, loneliness. Not sexual particularly, but to do with the nature of cities, the thousands of strangers you pass in a day, probably never to see again. It’s an emotion she first experienced a very long time ago, and she guesses it’s coming up now because she’s on the brink of something, some turning point, and she feels lost.

William Gibson, Pattern Recognition

Incidental treasures like this, thrown in amongst the flurry. With a handful of words, Gibson captures the essence of something I’ve long felt but have never quite articulated.

That is writing.

Starship Troopers and the Nine-Year-Old: Heinlein at 100

heinlein2.jpgRobert Heinlein influenced me deeply. In ways I won’t ever fully know. I read Starship Troopers when I was nine, and it was the title that set fully ablaze an already-smouldering early love for the written word. Whatever else might be said about its political or cultural overtones, it remains a smashing, action-packed story that grabbed a hold of my young imagination and never really let go.

In later years, I discovered Stranger in a Strange Land — 10-15 years too late to catch its counter-culture heyday, but multiple readings still gave the desired mind-stretching effect.

With the one hundredth anniversary of Heinlein’s birth being celebrated this month, it seemed a good time to remember.

Read Taylor Dinerman’s look back at Heinlein’s legacy for the Wall Street Journal here. Jim Downey also recounts the events at the Heinlein Centennial Gala here.

(via Entertaining Research)

Wandering the Mirror-World: Pattern Recognition

Pattern Recognition by William Gibson

Lest you think I read nothing but books in digital format, I just picked up William Gibson’s Pattern Recognition in good-old-fashioned paperback. It’s been waiting on my shelves for some years, and my recent completion of One Hundred Years of Solitude left an opening for those moments when I want or need to read sans gadgetry.

Gibson creates immersion. Each time I unseal the book’s pages, I feel a distinct shift as I enter its otherworld — heroine Cayce Pollard’s obsessive, design-centric existence. Intensifying the effect, hers is a kind of mirror-world of mine. Like Cayce, I’ve sat in meetings in over-designed design offices, with their softly glowing walls and self-consciously minimalist splashes of color on mono — where accent-inflected Euromales and hard-visaged New York femmes defined fashion solely in shades of black. I felt like I was wandering vaguely wide-eyed in an alternate universe then, and revisiting through Cayce’s eyes is like seeing it mirror-on-mirror, an endlessly-engrossing recursion.

More on this as the story develops.